I was delighted to have Graham as a member of our team early on in the Broadbent Institute’s history. He built our leadership and training program with great skill and thoughtfulness and was always a pleasure to be around. The memory I’d like to share is taken from a conversation I had with him just after he had taken on the role of Chief of Staff for the Minister of Energy and Finance in the new Rachel Notley government. His enthusiasm for what he was embarking on was palpable. In our conversation it was clear that he understood the huge challenge he faced in helping to push forward equitable and environmentally sustainable policy on behalf of a social democratic government in a province that had been ruled by conservatives for over three decades and depended heavily on oil and gas extraction for its prosperity. He was eager to find pragmatic solutions, and deeply optimistic about the possibilities. his passing is a great loss for us all.
Graham Mitchell was the best of humans. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. And he supported me to do what I didn’t think was possible. He was so smart and could cut through the noise to the essence of a thing. He could smell the politics of a situation and plan out the next chess moves. He was clever and funny and confident and generous. And now, in 3 short months, cancer has taken him away from us all. So now those of us who were touched by Graham’s magic will try to live the life he wanted for us. Sending so much love to Deanna and their family.
Au revoir Graham Mitchell. You were a great colleague in many a campaigns and projects. But I will always be particularly grateful for your stint as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Energy in Alberta. The populist-right hate machine decided to make you their particular target and you toughed them out, kept smiling, and earned the respect and friendship of everyone you worked with while staying true to your principles. It is shocking and unfair that you didn’t get to enjoy your new life reminding us all to savour ours, while remembering and celebrating yours.
On the many occasions I found myself in Toronto City Hall in the 2000’s, I’d inevitably end up at Graham’s door. Graham was at the centre of many of our efforts to win progressive policy and programs. He was the glue that brought useful people together to do useful things and he had a big hand in major wins on waste diversion, childcare and community development, just to name a few. Graham’s wisdom came with no heavy ego or baggage. He was brilliant in the happiest sense of the word. Oftentimes I would end up at Graham’s door with no purpose other than to talk because I always left our conversations carrying his warmth and brightness with me. Post City Hall our interactions became less frequent, a couple of years might pass before we would meet up again at some function or cross paths on a project. If he was in the room, I’d find my way to him quick enough though, thirsty for his quick smile and easy laugh. I can’t believe he is gone.
I spent a lot of time with Graham a few years back working on a labour council project. I distinctly remember a moment where I was very unsure of something and had made a really hard call. I asked him what he thought of it, and he answered in a way that made me trust my judgement and he shouldered me. And I remember pausing in that precise moment because it’s not often you meet people who make you feel like they believe in you. My sincere prayers for him, Deanna and their two kids. If you are looking down bud, just know that not all of us had dads growing up, but there are a lot of us who will shoulder others, like you. Rest in power, brother.
Graham was deeply committed to building a fairer and sustainable world. Everything he did was grounded in his values and demonstrated in his actions. I had the privilege and the joy to have Graham as my EA for my first two terms in office at Toronto City Hall. He was my rock, my compass, my solid ground. He was brilliant, with self assurance, integrity and wisdom beyond his years. Graham helped us transform complex issues into solutions. He found humour in situations when we needed it most. Graham gave and received respect from everyone he worked with - in our office, the public service, and most important, the communities we served.
There was always a high bar Graham strived to meet (and one for a beer later!) I loved being part of the milestones; new houses, babies, happy days and sick days. A warm and truly beautiful person who shared his talents and heart so generously. Like so many others, I was shattered to learn of Graham's illness, and so profoundly saddened as it finally took him. Graham will stay with all of us in many ways, and in much good work. Rest in peace and beauty my dear friend.
He was an incredible human: a fantastic friend, partner and dad, and someone who dedicated his life to the public good. I was constantly amazed by his intelligence, effectiveness and determination. This is how I'll remember him: laughing, surrounded by people, celebrating together the work to make our city, province and country a better place. I'm so grateful to have known him.
Essays remembering Graham
Close friends reflect on their time with Graham Learn more